In just a few more hours (and really for hours already around the world) celebrations in all kind of forms have already begun. I attended one tonight with Leah and the kids. It is of course a celebration. It takes thousands of different forms for millions of different heart reasons.
As obnoxious as it is for some it is still going to happen. We call it Christmas.
Today we will celebrate with countless millions and I know that some of you won’t. I know that for some, the very term is obnoxious. I understand this. For some, you have a conviction and I get that and respect that. This is in no way written to offend that conscience. In Romans 14 Paul says that if one abstains to honour the Lord…that’s good. If one chooses to celebrate the day to honour the Lord…that’s good too. I would encourage you to read it if you struggle here with those that don’t and with those that do celebrate.
But I don’t really want to write about that. I want to draw your attention from the “whether we should and whether we shouldn’t” really quickly by simply saying Merry Christmas.
I don’t mean it like most in our culture mean it. And I don’t mean it like those who oppose it understand it.
Christmas is obnoxious to some because they believe it is forbidden because of a passage in the law that prohibits making and worshiping idols. They believe there is a pagan history behind it. And yet for others it is obnoxious because it represents the combination of two words, “Christ” and “mass.” The word means “the mass of Christ.”
But what does “mass” really mean in the compound word Christmas? Any authoritative dictionary will reveal that the English term mass evolved from the Anglo-Saxon word maesse, which derived in turn from the Latin missa, which is a form of the verb mittere, which means “to send.”
Consequently, the root meaning of Christ-mass is “to send Christ,” or “Christ is sent.”
In a Roman Catholic sense, mass is quite literally sending Christ to the cross again and again. This ludicrous and demands not one life once, but one life again and again. In the letter to the Hebrews, the writer wrote that Jesus died once for sinners and then sat down ending forever the sacrificial system because finally a sacrifice was made that would forever meet the requirement God demanded for payment of sin for all those who would ever believe. Once for all. So we reject the Roman Catholic mass.
But really, historically, the word Christmas did not mean the mass of Christ in the sense that the RC church understands the mass. The word means much more.
1. It means Christ…the Anointed One was sent. This is good news for us. God’s plan from before time, was to send Christ. He was to be the appeasement…the satisfying of God’s requirement for man’s sin forever. It was God’s plan. He had promised as much that dark day sin entered the world. He had orchestrate human history in a way that it would be full of types and shadows revealing some of what this “Sent One” would be like and what life around him and in him would be like. More specifically He orchestrated the history to follow the characters and events around a pathetic little family that would one day become a pathetic little nation called “Israel.” Each story whispered His name and built anticipation of the coming of this “Sent One.”
If that wasn’t obvious enough he sent prophets and prophetess’ to tell of his coming. History was full of words telling of an event that would change everything.
Then came the Christ Sent Day (Christmas). We don’t know when it was. We are pretty confident it wasn’t December 25th but we know it happened. Matthew and Luke give detailed accounts of this event. Jesus came.
2. The word doesn’t just mean that he was sent, but that he wasn’t just anyone sent of just any reasons. We know his name…Emmanuel…God with us. This should blow you away to even consider.
Did we really think the hands of God would be so small? How could God cough and gasp for air? How could he cry and demand the help of another…Mary….in order to simply survive? Did we think in order for God to make all things right that he would have to come and dwell with us?
Can we imagine that the agent of creation would think equality with God as something not to be grasped but would empty himself of his own glory in order to take on the form of man…mere servants. And that for the first time in all of eternity, he becomes obedient. Obedient to the laws of nature: Hunger, sleep, pain, emotions.
Is this his great plan? Yes! Because of this, God gives him a name that will demand that all creatures, angelic and otherwise, to bow to his lordship.
It’s no wonder to some, it is foolishness.
3. It doesn’t just mean that God sent God to dwell with us but that his sending was for a mission. He would die for you and for me and for everyone that would ever believe.
He would also rise and live for us.
So, when I say Merry Christmas, this is what I mean. Happiness! Joy unspeakable! Celebrate that Christ was sent! Sent to rescue sinners in desperate need of a Saviour. Sent to redeem cultures and people groups and nations and languages groups of which you are part of.
So whether you celebrate Christmas or you don’t, take the time today…wherever you are, doing whatever you are doing and celebrate and worship God for sending Christ. Worship Him and thank Him that today you did not experience his righteous wrath on your sin because the One who was sent came in a humble form, lived a perfect life you couldn’t, and died the death you should have and rose again to secure our life with him. The activities of the culture around you or the history behind it should never ever inhibit the Christian from celebrating these truths. Not today, not any day.
Merry Christmas…or should I say celebrate Christ’s being sent. Or rather Praise God for the Sent Redeemer.